Drinking In... Boston
The best thing about Boston is you can just step outside, walk a block or two and discover yet another unique experience.
Visitors to Boston can expect to experience plenty of historic sights, lots of college kids, an overwhelming amount of sports fans and some of the oldest, most breath-taking architecture in America. Being the largest city in New England, and a key U.S. port, you can also expect a vibrant, diverse vibe. In addition to catering to 100,000-plus college students, there are endless imbibing options for the international set, tourists, the city’s sizeable gay community and the thousands of young professionals who call “the Hub” home.
With so many world-class institutions, high-tech firms and financial giants, the city is teeming with intelligent, talented post-grads and a savvy arts community. There’s also an omnipresent blue collar New England ethos, and sports here are religion — so brush up on your Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots and Bruins knowledge, because one or all are sure to come up over a pint.
From saloon-packed Faneuil Hall to the classic Italian cafes in the North End to the club-lined Theater District to the red-hot new Seaport waterfront, visitors can drink their way through kitschy swank ultra-lounges, vintage Irish pubs, sports bars and massive super-clubs.
It’s as good a city as there is for a pub crawl. But it’s also a fabulous town to grab a nice martini before taking in a Broadway show, sip cocktails in a sexy lounge, chat with close friends at a cool gastro-pub or sink Jager bombs to the pulse of a superstar DJ.
For a real taste of blue collar Boston, stop in to Sullivan’s Tap — or Sully’s Tap, as it’s known to locals — which sits in the shadows of Boston Garden, home of the Bruins and Celtics. Sully’s boasts the longest bar in Boston — which stretches an entire city block. A former speakeasy, the pub opened the day Prohibition ended in 1933 and has been serving up some of the coldest beer and cheapest mixed drinks in town ever since.
Adorned with former Bruins’ sticks and Garden ticket stubs laminated on the oak bar, it’s primarily known as a “hockey bar” but is just as friendly for hoop games. It’s divey, but with a charming, homey feel, and is a great place to grab a couple cold ones and take in some local flavor as you start your night.
A short walk from the Garden is the North End, where there’s dozens of Italian eateries, cafes and bars. A must-see here, in warmer weather, is the rooftop garden at Ristorante Fiore. A true urban oasis, this is a scenic spot to enjoy a tall draught beer, a glass of vino from their extensive wine list or a nice whiskey drink as you browse historic Hanover Street.
Just a hop, skip and a jump from the North End is the bustling Seaport, a former industrial wasteland that’s the fastest growing part of the city. It boasts some of the Northeast's priciest, most coveted real estate and offers up gorgeous waterfront views at a plethora of new nightspots.
Smack in the middle of it all is Strega, a sleek Italian eatery with a lively bar scene popular with celebrities and pro athletes.
The Peroni flows like water, while the attractive bar staff mixes up a tasty frenzy of libations classic and new. Jet-setting owner Nick Varano is always quick with a “hihowayah?” and a handshake, if he’s not too busy doing the mangia-thing with his pals from the cast of The Sopranos, who are regulars.
Don’t miss the antipastis — especially the Prosciutto Boccocini. Simply mouthwatering.
Moving deeper into South Boston — or Southie, as it's known — lies Local 149, one of the hippest new hotspots for retro cocktails, craft beers and eclectic eats. Occupying the former site of a beloved family restaurant that fed generations of Southie’s Irish working-class families, Local 149 exemplifies the neighborhood’s changing face.
Ironic T-shirt-clad hipsters, young families and local professionals alike gather for creative offerings like “hog wings” (mini pork chops), venison nachos, fried brussel sprouts and pressed duck club sandwiches.
On the bar, exquisite Belgian imports Chimay and Brasserie D’Achouff share tap space with local craft beers Pretty Things and B.B.C. Berkshire Ale, as well as “so old school it’s cool again” brews like Rhode Island’s Narragansett. The bartenders can sling the drinks too: we recommend the Moscow Mule, an icy concoction of vodka, house-made ginger beer and lime served in a copper cup.
When you’re ready to take things to the next level, Descent (pictured above) in the basement of the sparkling new W Hotel is your gateway to decadence in the nightlife-crazed Theater District. Located in the heart of Boston’s former “Combat Zone” — the city’s once-dangerous red light district — this upscale lounge allows you to escape the craziness of the neighborhood’s bridge-and-tunnel club scene for a more intimate, sexy adventure. Creative, top-shelf martinis rule the roost, but we’d also recommend the Irish cobbler and the Bourbon Allspice Sour.
Having sampled the flavors of the pubs, bars and lounges, you may want to polish off the night at a banging super-club. So just step around the corner to Royale (pictured right), a cavernous former theater with a stellar sound and lighting system, a massive dance floor, several bars and VIP areas and plenty of private, dark nooks to sit back and soak in the action.
British house DJ Dave Ralph books the talent, and brings in some of the world’s top acts, so expect to see anyone from Fatboy Slim to Ferry Corsten to Laidback Luke to Sasha. The versatile venue also hosts live rock, so whether it's Steve Aoki or Best Coast, Benny Benassi or Thrice, the energy is always high.
When you’re done dancing and drinking the night away, the best thing about Boston is you can just step outside, walk a block or two and discover yet another unique experience.